Sexism, fame and politics boil a noxious brew

Sexism, fame and politics boil a noxious brew

Why do people decide to enter into the world of politics? What is it that makes someone want to devote themselves to a life in the public eye as a politician?

Democrat Party MP Rangsima Rodrassami presents a chart during the censure debate, shortly before she was harassed by Pheu Thai MP for Surin province Prasit Chaisrisa with sexist remarks. THITI WANNAMONTHA

I think the ideal answer would be that they want to make a difference. That they want to work towards the betterment of society, improve the quality of life and increase their country's reputation at the global level.

There are of course some politicians that think like this, but for the most part, especially here in Thailand, such an answer is nothing but fantasy.

For proof of this we need look no further than the events of this week's censure debate. When Pheu Thai MP for Surin province Prasit Chaisrisa made his inappropriate comment about sleeping with Democrat MP Rangsima Rodrassami was it a simple case of outdated macho sexism or was it something even more offensive?

Personally, I believe the comment itself was nothing more than a poorly thought out example made to highlight the ridiculousness of Ms Rangsima's equally absurd remark about her dreams. The intention was not to belittle Ms Rangsima because she is a woman, or to make her feel sexually vulnerable.

While such an intention would certainly be unacceptable from an elected MP, Mr Prasit's real objective was even more deplorable.

He said it because he wants to be famous.

In an interview with Thai news agency Manager, Ms Rangsima said that Mr Prasit had spoken to her saying "He wanted to be in the media. He came to me and said 'Khun Rangsima, thank you. I argued with you and I became front-page news. I got to be on the television. I'm a new MP so please don't be angry with me. You are the star of the debate and people all over the country know you. So, when you debate, I will argue with you to promote myself. Then the people will know me too.' "

He has since been photographed with Ms Rangsima on numerous occasions with both of them putting their thumbs up and making cute little heart shapes with their arms raised in the air.

We pay this guy money to help govern the country, not to entertain us with his stupid remarks and delusions of grandeur. Even in a country as politically backwards as Thailand we should not have elected officials pursuing fame for reasons outside of being good at their jobs or rescuing children from burning buildings.

This is a common problem in Thailand. An individual's reputation often comes before doing the right thing. In the worst cases, the individual comes before our entire society's reputation; such was the result in Mr Prasit's case.

Of course an investigation will be carried out and probes will be launched, but this is all simply for appearances. We will have 4G before any serious punishment is handed down to Mr Prasit, because god forbid anyone is made to look bad, even if now, Thai politicians as a whole look even worse than they did before. If that's even possible?

More evidence to support this comes in the form of a comment made by Thailand's most offended person, Rabiabrat Pongpanit, the president of the Warm and Happy Family Promoting Association. This woman, who is constantly in a moral outrage over the state of Thai society, came out in support of the exchange between Mr Prasit and Ms Rangsima, saying "This case was very cute. They both [Prasit and Rangsima] were a gimmick, a political joke that eased the serious atmosphere during the debate. Don't be so serious. MPs are all friends. If I were her, I wouldn't take it so seriously because it was just teasing."

Again, save one man's "face" instead of acknowledging that there is something seriously wrong with any politician who is willing to openly admit that he makes controversial comments to get his name in the paper.

Of course there is the argument that this is an isolated incident, that Mr Prasit is the only politician in Thailand who cares so much about being famous that he'll settle for infamy. But when a Pheu Thai MP and a Democrat MP come together to take cutesy photos after a controversial exchange in parliament I suspect that both have put aside their differences, political and sexual, to grab their 15 minutes.

So while the investigations continue over what to do about Mr Prasit's comments I would suggest we stop wasting our time over allegations of sexism and remove him from his position for putting his personal interests above those of not only his party, but also the country.

However, while never as blatant as this, most if not all of our politicians behave like this at some point in their careers, passing bills that will help them achieve their agendas and ignoring laws to help out their friends, so I will not hold my breath for any form of progress in this area. But it does seem to me that overcoming this "big face" mentality should be our top priority, and Mr Prasit's incident is probably a good place to start the process of wiping it out.

Arglit Boonyai is Digital Media Editor, Bangkok Post.

Arglit Boonyai

Multimedia Editor

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